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Sabine Transportation Company

Sabine Transportation Company, located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is a shipping company that operates around the globe. Founded in the early 1900s, the company was bought in 1998 by Stickle Enterprises but still operates under the Sabine name.  
 
Sabine transports food and liquid fuels, among other cargo. For example, the company contracts with the U.S. government to transport world food aid to places like Afghanistan, North Korea, and parts of Russia and Africa. Sabine also carries refined fuels, gasoline, and MTBE (a fuel additive). 
 
The company’s smallest ship is 37,000 tons. Because of its size, each Sabine vessel has a minimum of twenty-five crew. Positions include deck crew (captain, chief mate, second and third mates, able-bodied seamen, a bosun, and ordinary seamen), engine crew (a chief engineer; first-, second-, and third-assistant engineers; oilers; a pump man; and a wiper), and stewards (a steward, cook, and steward utility). 
 

"The company contracts with the U.S. government to transport world food aid to places like Afghanistan, North Korea, and parts of Russia and Africa"

Assistant Engineers 
 
Assistant engineers typically come from college with a degree in marine engineering. “They might have studied diesel engines and turbines and could work in a power plant on land, for example,” explains Ian Cullis, Sabine’s human resources director. An individual will start as a third engineer and then, by spending time at sea and passing relevant U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) exams, can move up to more senior positions. A college degree is not required, however. “Someone can start at the bottom, such as being a wiper (who does just that: wipes oil off the machinery), and then with sea time and taking the exams, move up the ranks,” Cullis explains.  
 
Engineers must understand computers (all preventative maintenance is done with computers and some ships have “unmanned engine rooms” that are programmed to run alone at night) and electricity, and they must be able to take apart and fix diesel or steam turbine engines, among other skills. “A ship is like a moving hotel,” Cullis says. “Our engineers have to diagnose problems and analyze the different ship functions from air conditioning to ballast and cargo pumps.” 
 

"People who are going to sail on a ship of this size must be qualified to do their jobs, whether they have academic or hands-on training, and they must have a combination of practical skills and common sense"

Able-Bodied Seamen 
 
There are three categories of able-bodied seamen, based on the USCG endorsements they hold: AB special, AB limited, and AB unlimited. Because of their size and the fact that they sail in deep water, Sabine’s ships must hire AB unlimited crew. (As with the engineering crew, individuals climb the ranks: AB seamen must have been ordinary seamen for two years and have passed a USCG exam.)  
 
AB seamen’s responsibilities are wide-ranging. These include carrying out watches (looking to see that the ship isn’t going to collide with anything), steering, and handling all mooring lines when the ship ties up. Familiarity with knots, rigging, and how to secure the ship and ensure the cargo is safe are key. AB seamen also perform maintenance tasks, like chipping and painting, while at sea. 
 
There is no particular formal education requirement for AB seamen. Individuals can come on board at a lower position (steward utility, wiper, and ordinary seaman, for example) and move up to higher positions. 
 
“Our deck crew are essential; obviously, we can’t operate the ship without them,” says Cullis. And the crew must be skilled and dedicated. “People who are going to sail on a ship of this size must be qualified to do their jobs, whether they have academic or hands-on training, and they must have a combination of practical skills and common sense,” he emphasizes.  
 


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